Protecting your property

Thursday October 29 2009

By KATE GETAO

No sooner does a human being acquire something than she starts worrying that someone is going to take it away from her! I was thinking about this the other day because my life has suddenly become more difficult because of a disease called the `gated community’ that is spreading worldwide.

You see, I am a very impatient driver who is always looking for shortcuts to help her beat the traffic. Unfortunately, nowadays many of my shortcuts have been cut off by gates put up by fearful neighbourhoods. Worse still, my electronic navigator doesn’t know about these barriers and so it is increasingly misleading me into cul de sacs.

However, I think that gates are more effective for keeping people (apart from teenage people) in than they are for keeping thugs out. I remember that when we closed off all the paths in my estate in Nairobi several years ago, to `increase security,’ one of the main effects was that children from different parts of the estate could no longer visit each other (since the only way to a different part of the estate was by using the public road, and parents would not allow their children to use this road unsupervised).

I wonder what this isolation of our children has meant for us in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society? However, the idea of this article came about because the other day, I was riding in a taxi when we were overtaken by a pick-up truck whose open bed was surrounded with electric fencing – the type you often see on top of the walls that surround the compounds of the very rich.

Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to whip out my phone camera and capture the image for posterity, so you will just have to believe me. I wonder if electric fencing is an affective method of protecting the goods carried in an open bed truck? At any rate, it shows how innovative human beings can be. By the way, here in SA, open bed pick-ups are called `bakkies’ and are a sign of wealth.

Owning a bakkie is taken to mean that you have enough workers to load into the back so as to transport them to your work sites. However, I must confess that the guy with the fenced bakkie was not carrying human beings. This reminds me of a time in Kenya when we caged everything from light bulbs to toilet rolls to television sets. I hope that time is over for us now.

However, I am told that in some public schools in Western countries, students are so rowdy that teachers have to be caged behind a separate section to protect them as they deliver their lessons. The rest of us need protection from that kind of an education system.

Of course effective (or ineffective) means of protecting property did not start in the modern era. There is an evil device known as the chastity belt that men going off to trade or fight wars in the middle ages, apparently used to ensure that their wives remained faithful to them while they were away.

The belt is a kind of a steel nappy with a padlock. I suppose that the middle ages is also the time when locksmiths earned the best salaries in the job market. I was getting a little stuck here so I googled `protecting property’ and the most interesting offering that came up was `protecting your property from your medical insurer.’

I was shocked to learn that a medical insurer has the right to seize someone’s home to recover unpaid medical bills. So if your bills climb too high because of your cancer, your medical helper can help you into the next world by selling your house and leaving you out in the rain to die of pneumonia. This Saturday, look for protection from the right person.